Friday, March 5, 2010

The Good and the Ugly

Fallows: Two Illustrations of Good, Clear-Minded Journalism

David Leonhardt, in an "Economic Scene" analysis piece in the NYT today, talking about fears that the U.S. unemployment situation might be about to get even worse. One problem is the continued weakness of consumer spending. And then:

The second problem is that the stimulus program and the Fed's emergency programs are in the early stages of slowing down.

These programs have done tremendous good, as I've written before. The bubbles in housing and stocks over the last decade were far larger than an average bubble, and yet the resulting bust is on pace to be shorter and less severe than the typical one in the wake of a financial crisis. That's not an accident. It's a result of an incredibly aggressive response by the Fed, Congress, the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

Why do I mention this at all? Because he didn't let the current landscape of partisan argument scare him into a "sources say" approach. The most ill-informed part of the GOP/Fox criticism of stimulus spending is that unemployment is still bad, so the programs must not have done any good. It's almost embarrassing to have to point out the reply, which is: unemployment would be even worse without the intervention. (So the stronger argument would be: the stimulus should have been larger all along.) The real point is, Leonhardt wasn't cowed into saying, "sources say the programs have done tremendous good." He could just say what the facts were. Plus, he gracefully points out that both the Bush and Obama administrations were pulling the plow.

Also, just now on NPR's All Things Considered, Michele Norris's interview with Sen. Lamar Alexander about what happens next with the health-care reform bill. (Link here; audio will be there later this evening.) Alexander was manfully making the same points he did at last week's Health Summit -- the Republican "ideas" that had been added to the plan were "rear view mirrors on a car going the wrong way," passing the bill on a majority-vote reconciliation would be a historic offense against Constitutional balance etc. In each case, Norris in a polite but no-nonsense way asked him the "Yes, but what about???" questions. Didn't GW Bush get his big measures through by reconciliation? Why was it good then and bad now?

The impressive aspect, which should be standard in big-time interviews but obviously isn't, was the refusal to take a first-level talking point as the end of a discussion, and instead raising the counter-evidence. Significantly, this was not just "gotcha" counter-evidence familiar from many talk shows, the effort to smoke out some minor changes of position over time, but rather the probing of deeper holes in an argument. And, before you ask, of course politicians from every part of the spectrum should be subjected to such "Yes, but what about?" questions. This just happens to be what I heard today.
Marshall: Keep'n It Foxy

Proud day for CNN. See the chyron about right-wing complaints about the Obama Department of Justice ...

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John Cole: Anatomy of a Smear

If you want to see how the wurlitzer works, and how our media establishment has completely failed us, go read Glennzilla:

When discussing the McCarthyite DOJ witch hunt spawned by Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol, I wrote yesterday: now that “we have real, live, contemporary McCarthyites in our midst—Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol—launching a repulsive smear campaign, we’ll see what the reaction is and how they’re treated by our political and media elites.” On Twitter yesterday, I wrote: “How media figures treat Liz Cheney after her vile McCarthyite smear campaign will say a lot about their character.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spoke volumes today about himself and his “news network.” First, on Twitter, he excitedly promoted his upcoming story about what he called the “intense debate about Obama Justice Dept bringing in lawyers who previously represented Gitmo detainees.” On March, 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow famously devoted his entire broadcast to vehemently condemning Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts, explaining: “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent.” By contrast, Wolf Blitzer—receipient of an Edward R. Murrow award—sees such smear campaigns as nothing more than an “intense debate” to neutrally explore and excitingly promote.

Read the whole thing. Just plain disgusting.

John Cole: Fuck These People

Really all I have to say:

This is why I laugh when I hear the term principled conservative or I listen to the folks at the Next Right or the Frum Forum talk about principled conservatism. Nice party you got there. I’m sure the Fonzi of Freedom Nick Gillespie will appear on Fox News or at Big Government to decry this bullshit.

Anyone with any associations with the GOP at this point has no excuse.

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